The Story Behind The Ilala Palm - Ilala Lodge
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The Story Behind The Ilala Palm

By Ilala Lodge on September 27, 2023

You might think it strange that our beautiful hotel is named after a palm tree. After all, aren’t palm trees best suited to tropical locations? Not this one.

The Ilala Palm, also known locally as the Molala or Vegetable Ivory Palm, is native to this region. Look out for it in Zimbabwe, Angola, Botswana, Namibia and northern South Africa.

Not only is it lovely to look at, growing up to 7 m tall (15 m in rare cases) with broad, fan-shaped leaves, but the fruit is also highly sought-after by humans and animals alike.

Young fruit, which are generally green in colour, contain a white fluid similar to coconut milk. As the fruit matures over two years, it darkens to an orange colour and finally settles on a rich, dark brown. The fruit’s exterior is hard and needs to be broken using force to access the sweet gingery pulp inside. Baboons will often use rocks to accomplish this task.

The crown heart of the tree is also edible and is known in Botswana as ‘gau,’ where they prepare and consume it much like a vegetable. Although the fruit of the Ilala Palm takes a long time to ripen, a mature tree can produce up to 2000 at a time, making them a rich food source for large animals like elephants, who also like to eat the leaves. Its seeds are dispersed by elephants and baboons, who consume and deposit them over long distances.

Where humans are concerned, the Ilala Palm is commonly tapped for what’s known as “Palm Wine.” The sap is fermented for a few days before the drink is ready to consume. The liquor is rather sour and has a slight effervescence to it – sample at your own risk!

Young Ilala Palms are useful for other reasons, too. Their fronds are used in basketry and their hard, white seeds are perfect for carving into trinkets, tools and jewellery. In this way, the Ilala Palm also creates industry for local communities.

Here at Ilala Lodge Hotel, we boast a number of young and mature examples of the Ilala Palm on our grounds. Our sister property, Palm River Hotel, also derives its name from the Ilala Palm. You could say it’s become something of a symbol for us…

The name was originally suggested by Thelma Newmarch, an interior designer with close ties to our hotel family. She suggested the name because of the abundance of Ilala Palms in our area.

In a fitting twist, ilala is actually the Ndebele (local language) word for “lie down,” the perfect moniker for us as a hospitality provider. Ilala Lodge Hotel is indeed a place to lay down your head and soak up our warm hospitality.

Ilala Lodge Hotel, Victoria Falls

Ilala Lodge Hotel is a luxury, 5-star property conveniently located in the heart of Victoria Falls. We are walking distance from most attractions in town and offer unparalleled service to local and international travellers.

If you’d like a front seat to Africa’s Adventure Capital, contact us today and start planning your Zimbabwean vacation.

You can choose between making use of our seamless online booking platform or contacting our friendly reservations team directly via email at

We look forward to welcoming you to Victoria Falls, home to one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World!


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